HOUSTON (AP) — Four-time Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer charged in, called off the other infielders, and camped out to catch an inning-ending popup.
Before the ball even hit the ground, he knew he’d screwed up.
Hosmer overran the towering popup, allowing the ball to fall without being touched and giving the Houston Astros a bizarre 1-0 win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday.
“Just overran it,” Hosmer said. “I put my head down trying to make up some ground. By the time I looked up, it was past me. It’s on me.”
A single by Brian McCann and a steal by pinch runner Derek Fisher — ruled safe after a video review flipped the call — set up the unusual ending.
Alex Bregman hit the pop, and Hosmer, signed to a rich free agent deal by the Padres this offseason, ran in to make the play.
But with reliever Phil Maton and third baseman Christian Villanueva staying out of the way, Hosmer suddenly realized he was in trouble and had no chance to catch it. The ball plopped onto the grass a few feet behind him, between the plate, mound and first base.
Fisher scored without a throw on what was scored as a single.
“That’s one of the good things about this team — we don’t take anything for granted,” Bregman said. “He was busting his butt from second base. He could have easily jogged and said whatever, but that’s not how we play here. We play hard and Derek did a great job.”
Bregman had flung his bat aside in disgust after popping up with a full count and two outs.
“I thought that I had just missed it and I should’ve crushed it,” Bregman said.
Last October at the same park, Bregman lined a single that scored the pinch-running Fisher from second in the 10th inning to lift Houston over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series.
“That’s been a pretty good combo for us,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I’d rather win the game a little earlier, but there’s some comfort when Bregman is up to bat and Fisher is on second.”
Chris Devenski (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win. Robbie Erlin (0-1) took the loss.
Gerrit Cole struck out 11 in seven sharp innings for Houston, giving up five hits and walking none. Since being acquired by the champion Astros, he has given up one run in 14 innings and fanned 22, a franchise record for the most strikeouts through the first two starts.
The Padres struggled to make contact with Cole’s offspeed pitches. For a second straight start, Cole had at least 20 swinging strikes. In his Astros debut against the Rangers, he had a career-high 21 swinging strikes and had 20 on Saturday night against San Diego.
“I thought the curveball was good, but sometimes the slider was better than the curveball,” Cole said. “We had both sides of the plate with the fastball, which is kind of what sets everything up.”
Padres starter Bryan Mitchell worked around six walks in 5 2/3 innings, allowing three hits. The Astros loaded the bases in the fifth, but Bregman flied out to end the threat.
Padres: Reliever Kirby Yates exited the game with ankle discomfort after throwing just one pitch in the eighth. … RHP Dinelson Lamet played catch up to 90 feet and will likely do the same again on Sunday as he continues to make progress in his recovery from elbow soreness that started in late March.
Astros: Houston activated RP James Hoyt from the disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Fresno. … 1B Yuli Gurriel, on the disabled list after breaking his hand in February, was given an off day but will play the next three games on his rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi.
THEY SAID IT
Hinch on the bizarre nature of the game’s ending: “If you see enough games, I guess you see everything. I had never really seen that before. That wasn’t very predictable.”
Padres: Tyson Ross (1-0, 4.50 ERA) will start for San Diego in the final game of the three-game set. He earned a win in an 8-4 victory over Colorado this week.
Astros: Charlie Morton (1-0, 0.00) allowed just three hits and two walks in a strong season debut where he blanked the Orioles in six innings. He’s 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in eight starts against San Diego.
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